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Links for March 6th through March 11th

by Mel Starrs on March 12, 2010

in News

These are my links for March 6th through March 11th:

  • Resisting Dickensian Gloom | Planetizen – I often read stuff I don't agree with, just to keep myself in check. This article is pretty much the opposite of everything I believe. I don't even know where to start. Suffice to say, statistics can be manipulated to back up *any* theory. I'm still a big fan of cities though…
  • No more niches – we need sustainable innovation at scale (Jonathon Porritt) – "I spent a day last week at Ecobuild – ‘the biggest event in the world for sustainable design, construction and the built environment’. That absolutely wasn’t a claim that could have been made at the first Ecobuild, five years ago, which attracted no more than 1000 visitors. This year, there were more than 50,000 people there. Earls Court was flush with exhibitors, from some of the biggest companies in the UK to distinctly ‘alternative’ start-ups taking a massive gamble on enough people falling for their particular ‘breakthrough innovation’. There were countless meetings and debates going on the whole time, and the kind of buzz that one doesn’t always associate with events of this kind.<br />
    For the politicians who’d dropped in, and wandered around looking a bit bemused, it all said one thing: no more niches. This was about scale. New orders. Expanding markets. Innovation (in the construction industry!). And even, dare one say it, new jobs."
  • Making the connection with sustainable development – The Regeneration Blog – Spot on Jackie – read the whole thing: "We got onto discussing whether "sustainability is the new regeneration" in terms of being the new emerging exciting industry to be part of, for the Noughties and the Tens, in the same way as regeneration was the party-to-be-at for the Eighties and the Nineties. And our verdict was: well, yes!<br />
    The parallels are all there. Environmental jobs are created on the fringe and (at least in the general perception) are still not mainstream. Despite a pretty coherent case, environmentalists still seem to be outsiders, banging on the door of the establishment. Those who choose the environment industry tend to be as messianic and passionate, as pointy-headed, as we were when we "invented" urban regeneration, in London Docklands (among other places) all those years ago.<br />
    Environmental projects tend to need the same skills that we deploy in urban regeneration…"
  • Official figures show construction output falling again, but devils lurk in the detail | Brickonomics – More doom from Brian Green: "If you do a crude breakdown of the work sponsored by the public sector, doing your best to include PFI, and the work that is properly private sector, then you find that the public sector underpins close to half the work currently under construction. That compares with less than a third before the credit crunch (see graph 2).<br />
    For me that graph in one picture illustrates the increased level of risk in the construction market given the likely pattern of future public spending."
  • Fewer redundancy in construction, but the future remains bleak on jobs | Brickonomics – Well reasoned doom (as ever) from Brian Green: "underemployment is, to some extent, becoming the new unemployment.<br />
    Broadly, the proportional cost of overhead per person increases with the reduction in hours. This makes each person, theoretically, less productive financially from the employers’ perspective.<br />
    Firms may be prepared to carry this cost for a limited period, but if they see no sign of an upturn the likelihood is of a further wave of job cuts. With people working fewer hours and proportionately carrying larger overheads, this (proportionately) increases the numbers of jobs likely to go."
  • Feed-in tariff ‘killing off’ burgeoning UK small turbine industry | Environment | guardian.co.uk – Not that I'm necessarily standing up for wind, but the capital cost in this example is half that of the solar: "This will allow a 1.5KW turbine, producing an average of 800KWh a year in windy conditions – less than a fifth of the average UK household's electricity needs. By comparison, UK panel installer Solarcentury has estimated that the typical 18 metre square domestic solar panel installation would on average generate just over 2,000KWh – nearly half the average household's electricity consumption."
  • 2009: EPCs in numbers | National Energy Services – Data, data, data! At last some figures which might indicate how many Part L non-dom properties built per year.<br />
    ND EPC (non-dwellings) 111,312<br />
    The post focuses on domestic market, but this is the first time I've seen *any* data on numbers of non-dom EPC's.
  • The Archdruid Report: Energy Follows Its Bliss – Via Chris Tweed, a druid(?!?) explains exergy. Very long post – worth reading the whole thing: "In a very small way, as you sit there considering your cold coffee, you’re facing an energy crisis; the energy resources you have on hand (the remaining heat in the coffee) will not do the work you want them to do (warming your insides). Notice, though, that you’re not suffering from an energy shortage – there’s exactly the same amount of energy in the dining room as there was when the coffee was fresh from the coffeepot. No, what you have is a shortage of the difference between energy concentrations that will allow the energy to do useful work. (The technical term for this is exergy). How do you solve your energy crisis? One way or another, you have to increase the energy concentration in your energy source relative to the room temperature environment."
  • SuDoBE — Sustainable Design of the Built Environment – Good to see Chris blogging again: "In the context of heated buildings, the ability of a source of energy to “do work” can be interpreted as delivering warmth to occupants. But as the post on exergy suggests, the concentration of heat is important and concentrated sources of warmth indoors are only available from fossil fuels. The erroneous assumption often made about warmth is that it doesn’t matter how it is delivered as long as it is capable of creating a comfortable environment. However, we know thermal comfort depends on the recent experience. If I return home on a cold day, what I want is not a uniform level of heating, which is increasingly the norm in new, highly insulated dwellings with small heating systems, but a high temperature heat source that will help me recover from the outside conditions quickly. There is an aesthetic pleasure to this which should not be underestimated."
  • Creating excellent primary schools: A guide for clients | Publications | CABE – Helping primary school clients, working in either the local authority or the school itself, to make the most of new capital investment in their buildings.<br />
    There is a clear link between well-designed primary schools and pupil performance and behaviour. Successful school design is the result of hard work and collaboration between designers, contractors and visionary, committed clients.<br />
    Creating excellent primary schools takes readers step by step through the process, offering practical tools and a dozen inspiring case studies to show just what can be achieved.
  • Rethinking biomass boilers | News | Architects Journal – "The number of stories reaching the AJ about the shortcomings of biomass boilers is growing daily. Sources say a raft of schools are giving up on their maintenance-heavy wood-chip or pellet-fuelled boilers and are instead relying on back-up gas-fired boilers.<br />
    This does not seem to be deterring design teams working on the new wave of Building Schools for the Future schemes, 86 per cent of which are going down the biomass route. Garry Palmer, director of advanced design at AECOM, which has been carrying out detailed research into biomass boilers, understands why this is. ‘Biomass is almost certainly the cheapest in terms of capital cost, and is the easiest way to get the additional Department for Children, Schools and Families [DCSF] funding available for low-carbon schools.<br />
    ‘However, when you look at lifecycle costs, other routes are more cost-effective… but the DCSF carbon calculator does kind of push you down the biomass route,’ adds Palmer."
  • Making better use of Energy Performance Certificates and data: Consultation – Planning, building and the environment – Communities and Local Government – Hurrah – another consultation: "Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) and Display Energy Certificates (DEC) have an important role to play in supporting our carbon reduction aims by providing vital information about the energy efficiency of buildings in England and Wales and advice about measures to improve their energy performance. To enhance their contribution, we are consulting on a number of measures to help improve the effectiveness of EPCs and to make better use of energy performance data."
  • Frank Chimero has a blog. (How-To) – Good philosophy: "Why do we look for recipes? Because we’re risk averse. If we fail, it’s because someone else gave us the wrong recipe. We get to skip on the blame, but can claim the success.<br />
    But, there’s money in recipes. If there’s a recipe, that means there’s a secret. And you can sell a silver bullet. The thing is, most people that are giving you a recipe are pandering to your fear. “What if things go wrong?”"
  • Facing up the biomass emissions – BSEE – Building Services and Environmental Engineer – "…many biomass installations already use a cyclone or multi-cyclone to remove particles from flue gases. However, cyclones are totally dependent on the mass of the particles for removal, so while they will remove around 50% of the coarser particles they do not remove particles below PM10. This is why the new Directive and its emphasis on PM2.5 has such significance for biomass installations…<br />
    Until recently there has not been a financially viable alternative but Hoval has now optimised a ceramic filter for use in biomass installations – without making the overall cost of a biomass installation prohibitive.<br />
    Capable of removing up to 96% of PM2.5 and PM10 particles, ceramic filters can be used with any type of biomass boiler and can retrofitted to existing installations, so they have the potential to address many concerns (real of perceived) about particulate emissions from biomass."
  • Green Building Programs: The Fundamental Flaw! – Michael Anschel – Excellent point, well made (read the whole post): "If we are asking people to think about how everything is connected, how everything goes somewhere, how their actions impact other people, and about their relationship with nature, then why the hell are we telling them to check their brain at the door and pick up a code book? It is almost as moronic as suggesting the LEED AP test (an exercise in minutia), or the NAHB Certified Green Professional test (a joke) have the ability to turn someone into a green expert!<br />
    Green building requires you to think. In green building, there is no easy path or one-size-fits-all solution. The sooner everyone understands this, the sooner we can get back to the business of green building."
  • FT.com / UK / Economy & Trade – BAE chief throws spanner in gas fitters’ work – "Gas fitters, photocopier repairmen and other technicians should stop calling themselves engineers, according to the chairman of BAE Systems, the UK’s biggest manufacturing company.<br />
    “Britain suffers from a language problem in that the word ‘engineer’ is applied to a lot of different people who do a range of jobs,” Dick Olver told the Financial Times. “Professional engineers need to take ownership of the brand and keep it for themselves.”"
  • Environment Agency – Opportunity and environmental sensitivity mapping for hydropower in England and Wales – "The map is based on a report commissioned by the Environment Agency to assess hydropower potential of our rivers and the impact of developing them on the environment.<br />
    In total over 25,000 sites were identified. These sites represent existing structures within rivers such as weirs and lochs. As well as hydropower opportunities they are barriers to fish movement and migration.<br />
    If a hydropower scheme were built on every one of these barriers they could generate one per cent of the UK’s electricity needs. In reality, only some of these sites could be exploited due to environmental sensitivities, particularly the impact on migratory fish populations such as salmon and eels, as well as practical constraints such as access to the electricity network.<br />
    However, we identified around 4,000 sites where a sensitively designed scheme incorporating a fish-pass could actually improve the local environment as well as generate electricity."
  • Office for Renewable Energy Deployment (ORED) – Department of Energy and Climate Change – Note – they have three objectives – carbon reduction is only one: "Office for Renewable Energy Deployment (ORED)<br />
    ORED's mission is “To accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in order to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy security and create business opportunities in the UK”"
  • Tories set out plan for local design standards – Building Design – "A Conservative government would introduce a decentralised planning system where local authorities each draw up individual architectural and design standards, the party has confirmed.<br />
    Proposals to fast track schemes that do not attract objection from local people are also included in the party’s long-awaited planning green paper, Open Source, published on Monday.<br />
    “Legislation already requires councils to promote good design, yet many are struggling” Ruth Reed<br />
    The paper dismisses the current system as “almost wholly negative and adversarial” and instead envisages a broad brushstroke national framework of planning policy, combined with more distinctive regional policies.<br />
    But RIBA president Ruth Reed — who is supportive of the paper’s emphasis on design — said “struggling” councils must be given more resources if they are to draw up and maintain local architectural standards."
  • IES » » 111 ways to save energy – Interesting statistic: "Buildings in New York City account for nearly 80 PERCENT of its greenhouse gas emissions. More than buses, cars and taxis. And in a city with more than 10,000 cabs alone, the fact that buildings are the largest contributor of greenhouse gases is astounding."
  • Ian McEwan: Failure at Copenhagen climate talks prompted novel rewrite | Environment | guardian.co.uk – "He said was happy to class himself as "warmer" — a term increasingly used by climate sceptics to describe those who agree with the scientific consensus that human activity drives warming. "Though I am quite tempted sometimes to be a calamatist. There is something intellectually delicious about all that super-pessimism."<br />
    McEwan added that his research on climate had forced him to reconsider opposition to nuclear power. "We just don't have anything else that can run our cities on a windless night in February." Better nuclear energy than coal, he said. "It is rare that virtue and necessity collide. Sooner or later we're going to have to find a new energy source for mankind.""
  • News – dcarbon8 carbon & sustainability consultancy – Well done, and good luck to Guy: "Deloitte, the business advisory firm, has acquired dcarbon8, a leading carbon and sustainability consultancy, as it expands and evolves its environmental and sustainability consulting practice.<br />
    The deal sees Guy Battle, a founder of dcarbon8, become a Deloitte partner and its employees join Deloitte."
  • Real Life LEED: FREE Unlocked LEED 2009 Checklists That Don’t Suck! – Does Real Life LEED have a day job as well (I assume so). In awe of how helpful this website is – wish I had time to do similar stuff for BREEAM): "Below you'll find links to Excel checklists for each of the five v2009 (aka v3) rating systems (…if you think I'm going to try to revamp the LEED-Homes checklist you're insane). Each prints to a single page, has an area for notes, and is COMPLETELY UNLOCKED, so if you don't like something you can edit it on your own."
  • My biggest mistakes « Scott Berkun – Great advice from Scott – especially if you're in a large multi-dis consultancy: "Not staying with the same boss/group. When I was there (‘94 to ‘03), after a long stint on the IE team, I jumped around Microsoft every couple of years, putting my curiosity and passions ahead of climbing ladders. I wanted a diversity of experiences – I had four different job titles in nine years at Microsoft – but this made it harder to get promoted and, in some cases, to earn respect in the MSFT culture. The advice I give people all the time is pick your manager first. A great manager will negate most other work problems, whereas an awful manager will negate most other work pleasures. Good managers get promoted and often their best people rise with them."
  • Why scientists must be the new climate sceptics – opinion – 04 March 2010 – New Scientist – At the risk of opening up a massive can of worms again, NS points out why bloggers and tweeters shouldn't have risen to Amanda's bait (key phrase being unnecessary and ultimately harmful). Good article worth registering onto the site to read: "Last November, architecture journalist Amanda Baillieu wrote a column in Building Design that questioned whether the building industry should support cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. It was tame stuff, yet it prompted a torrent of criticism, some of it offensive. That was unnecessary, and ultimately harmful to the cause Baillieu's critics were fighting for. Now Baillieu is presenting herself as a brave soul, fearlessly standing up to climate science orthodoxy – despite having presented no evidence to challenge global warming."